The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) selected Rita Gue, the president of the Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation, as this year’s recipient of its Institutional Leadership Award for her work to improve the economy and quality of life in St. Bernard Parish. She was honored at a ceremony that gathered economic development leaders from around the world during IEDC’s 2019 Annual Conference in Indianapolis, Ind. on Oct. 14.
The award is presented each year to a leader of an institution who has made significant contributions to the community in support of economic development.
“This highly-prestigious award is something that everyone in St. Bernard Parish and across Louisiana should take pride in,” said Andrew Jacques, the executive director of the St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation who nominated Gue for the award. “We’ve long known that Rita Gue is one of the most generous and impactful leaders in our community, and it is satisfying to see her contributions recognized on the international stage. There’s truly no one more deserving of this honor.”
Gue was chosen to receive the highly-competitive award for her leading role in developing and implementing the Meraux Foundation’s strategy for improving the quality of life in St. Bernard Parish. During her tenure as president, the Foundation has donated land for the hospital, a sheriff’s substation, an elementary school, a bike path, a marina, a nature park, and other community assets; it has created a two-block arts campus to spur the growth of the creative economy; it designated the Docville Farm campus for charitable purposes; it launched the business attraction and retention program Startup St. Bernard; it produced Working on the Water to help fishermen prosper; it sponsors numerous tourism and hospitality events; and it has forged local, regional, and national partnerships to bring resources to St. Bernard Parish as well as position it as a national leader in coastal education; among much more.
“It is truly an honor to be singled out and recognized by such an esteemed organization that is helping to develop vibrant communities around the world,” said Gue. “But I cannot claim this recognition for myself. There are so many people who work day-in-and-day-out to improve our community. One person, in particular, deserves special credit- my late aunt, Arlene Meraux, who had the vision and foresight to create our private family foundation and dedicate her assets to its mission of improving the quality of life in St. Bernard.”
Gue was joined at the ceremony by her sons and fellow board members, Bill and Chris Haines, Todd Ragusa, the Meraux Foundation’s director of communications, Jaques, and Danielle Martin, SBEDF’s director of communications and strategic initiatives. Parish officials in town on an unrelated economic development mission also attended, including Parish President Guy McInnis, his wife Laurie, and Katie Tommaseo, the director of tourism and film.
“Ms. Rita stole the show and everyone’s hearts at the award ceremony. She is truly an inspiration, and I can’t think of a better partner to help St. Bernard Parish Government move our community forward,” said McInnis.
Parish and regional economic development leaders, who work with Gue and the Foundation, added letters of support to the SBEDF nomination of Gue, including President and CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc. Michael Hecht, President and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation Andy Kopplin, State Senator Sharon Hewitt, State Representative Ray Garofalo Jr., St. Bernard Parish President Guy McInnis, St. Bernard Parish Sheriff James Pohlmann, President and CEO of the Port of New Orleans Brandy Christian, Executive Director of the St. Bernard Port, Harbor, and Terminal District Drew Heaphy, St. Bernard Chamber of Commerce CEO Elizabeth Dauterive, Nunez Community College Chancellor Tina Tinney, and Superintendent of St. Bernard Parish Public Schools Doris Voitier.
Hecht said “Mrs. Gue has proven her commitment to not only regional economic development, but defense of our regional environment and ecosystem as well. GNO, Inc. is currently working with the Meraux Foundation on a series of workshops in St. Bernard Parish to identify funding mechanisms for key water management projects: projects which will fortify the Parish’s environmental resilience, quality of life offerings and business attraction potential for generations to come. This holistic approach to economic prosperity is all too rare, and we are fortunate to have The Meraux Foundation and Mrs. Gue’s guiding example in Greater New Orleans.”
Kopplin said, “As president of the Meraux Foundation and trustee of the Greater New Orleans Foundation, Rita has exhibited overwhelming support towards economic development initiatives in St. Bernard Parish and our region.”
Voitier said, “At the heart of every strong community is a strong public school system. Ms. Gue and the Meraux Foundation’s commitment to ensuring the highest quality of life for the citizens of St. Bernard Parish can be seen and felt with their continuous support of our schools and students… Ms. Rita’s unwavering care for St. Bernard Parish is a paramount reason for the Parish’s advancement.”